Tech & The District » Election Tech the way we see it: insights and musings on technology PR, policy and the District, from H&K’s D.C. Tech Team. Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:06:44 +0000 en hourly 1 2011 Congressional Outlook Fri, 19 Nov 2010 22:34:57 +0000 Ben Breit As expected, the mid-term election turned out to be a sweeping and historic victory for Congressional Republicans, as they snatched 6 Senate seats and at least 60 House seats (plus control) from Democratic hands. House Republicans, in eager anticipation of Nancy Pelosi officially passing the gavel to John Boehner, have wasted little time in drafting an aggressive agenda for the 112th Congress.

Naturally, most of the political discourse since November 2 has been enveloped by issues such as healthcare repeal and the national debt. On that note, we thought it appropriate to put on our public affairs hats and address question that tech insiders from D.C. to Silicon Valley are asking: In this heated political environment, does the tech industry have any chance at all to gain traction on its core issues before the divided Congress?

Handicapping the Republicans’ play appears to be easy at first glance. Following Republican criticism that President Obama neglected the economy in lieu of an insular focus on healthcare reform, future Speaker John Boehner’s agenda is likely stock full at this time.  Indeed, nowhere in Republicans’ much publicized Pledge to America does the word “technology” even appear. Seeing many of its top allies getting relegated to ranking status (or in Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher’s case, relegated out of office) could not have been a pleasant sight for Silicon Valley.

Much of the agenda will ride on who takes over as Chair of the important House Energy and Commerce Committee, which regulates many technology issues. As the current ranking member, Joe Barton would appear to have the leg up. However, the broad nature of a committee that regulates both technology and the environment, coupled with Barton’s defense of BP CEO Tony Hayword, might prove a dealbreaker for Republican leadership. The Texas Republican is facing a spirited challenge from Michigan’s Fred Upton. Both Rep. Barton and Rep. Upton have declared net neutrality dead on arrival under their chairmanships. Still, there is a lot of money on both sides of the issue, so it is likely to at least get raised in 2011.

Alternatively, the issue of patent reform is handled by the Judiciary Committees. Here, the conflict is not between Democrats and Republicans as much as it is between the House and Senate. Senate Judiciary Members reached a deal earlier this year that was criticized by many in the technology sector. House Judiciary Members agreed and refused to participate in negotiations until the Senate came back with a bill that was more tech-friendly. The issue has been stalled ever since.

Since patent reform lacks a partisan divide, is there hope for it in 2011? Possibly. However, anyone who thinks any technology issue – whether it patent reform, net neutrality, privacy or any others – has a realistic chance of making the 2011 Congressional agenda is probably being overly optimistic.

But is it fair to exclude this sector from discussions on the economy and jobs? A strong argument could be made for relying more than ever on technology companies during these trying times. According to a report from the Tech America Foundation, the tech industry has begun its climb out of the recession, having added 32,200 jobs from January-June 2010.

“The technology industry now appears to be slowly turning the corner with the rest of the economy,” said Phil Bond, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “We have weathered the storm better than most. From its position embedded in every other industry, technology remains the best hope for driving robust recovery across the economy.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have had a focus on creating jobs – and understandably so. Perhaps Congressional leadership would do well to realize that in these trying times, it might be worth it to address the concerns of one of the few industries that has actually made job creation a reality rather than a theory.

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British Generally Pretty Accessible Election 2010 Fri, 07 May 2010 19:31:01 +0000 duncanburns

As I watch from afar the events in Britain, as our party leaders try and settle on a workable coalition, it’s been fascinating in the last month to see how much more accessible politics has become. Not a particularly bold observation (or new), but from thousands of miles away I’ve been able to vote, follow the developments of the campaign, watch the debates (thank you CSPAN 3), find out the fate of friends standing for election (Congratulations Jo Johnson MP!), enjoy the legendary swingometer and enjoy an election party that took place a pleasant 5 hours behind, so no need for a ridiculously late night.

The analysis and insights from news organizations, colleagues and others I trust has brought me into a race that in previous generations I might have had to wait a month or two to know who won. Now it’s just a day or two till the musical chairs is over.

One last thought for our US readers… UK elections last a month from start to finish. That’s it. If one adjusted that by population for the US, a crude adjustment for sure, imagine US elections that ran for “just” five months. Unrealistic, but perhaps something to ponder on a Friday.

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Are you saying Ni to internal communications? Wed, 22 Apr 2009 23:18:53 +0000 Chad Torbin I was fortunate enough to sit in on a rather fine luncheon today at the J.W. Marriott and an even greater speech by President Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe on “technology as the holy grail” at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)’s annual Washington Forum in DC today.Plouffe addressed many of the key 2008 election strategies and like Chris Anderson at his keynote address at this year’s FOSE conference hammered home the same uber-message; meet them [your audience] where they live. A fairly uncomplicated message, especially given the times, but yet so many things about the Obama campaign seemed so simple yet one would be hard pressed to duplicate them with such vigor in our own companies or lives.

And while we hear example after example about how the Obama campaign leveraged technology to reach millions of targeted individuals in thousands of different cities, fund raise and organize, what I hadn’t thought of is how the same technologies – text messaging, facebook, video, and email – were used to push internal communications as well. While technology is credited with helping drive votes, it was also leveraged as a platform to make sure thousands of staffers were on message 24/7. That’s no simple task for any campaign.

While we’ve all heard of what a success it was externally, as Plouffe pointed out today it was internally just as big a coup as anything else. 


]]> 0 Congratulations Mr President-elect! Wed, 05 Nov 2008 20:25:00 +0000 duncanburns After a long race and two eminently capable final choices for the American people, we now know who’s going to be taking over 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in January.

Many others have the details on how and why the race was won – and in no small part because of the use of recent online innovations in voter engagement, activation and money-raising. For comprehensive analyses of the race, check out the usual suspects like CNN.

However, for those of us wondering what this all means, the team here at H&K DC has been putting some thought into just that…

We have just published a preview of the President-elect’s agenda – click here to check it out. It includes our sense on what those of us in the tech space need to be thinking about. I’ve included our initial thoughts below.

Advancing Technology:  Creating a Transparent and Connected Democracy

Rarely does anything move as swiftly as technology – especially not governments. The challenge of adopting policies that can keep pace with ever-evolving technological advances is a significant one. Almost all American lawmakers would agree that it is critical to get the laws and regulations governing the development of technology right in order to ensure the nation’s leading role in global innovation and promote a healthy U.S. economy. However, opinions vary on what exactly it would mean to “get it right,” and in the new political environment in the United States, it is safe to say the Democratic Party’s opinions are likely going to be the ones that are enacted into law.

To begin, President-elect Barack Obama has stated his commitment to creating a transparent and connected democracy, in part through opening up the government to citizens and using technology to “reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks.” In essence, Obama is likely to apply some of the technologies he used during his successful campaign to the federal government. Hardware and software companies, along with consultants who can provide expertise to the government on how to achieve those goals, could find business opportunities to share their knowledge and products with the government.

Obama also has said he would create a new position of the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to “ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century.” This demonstrates the importance Obama will place on network safety and cyber security.

Potential business opportunities for technology companies may also exist with other Obama proposals, such as his promotion of health information technology, encouragement to modernize public safety networks with new technologies, and support for “green” technological advances to address energy and environment issues. In particular, a much talked about second economic stimulus package that is likely to be considered in the lame duck session or early in 2009 will almost assuredly contain a big infrastructure and environmental component, and technology companies should find good opportunities to work on that initiative.

However, it is very likely that companies will need to show a commitment to American job creation in their messaging to avoid scrutiny and possible regulation. As you’ll note elsewhere in this report, Obama has made it clear that he will take action to reward those companies that create American jobs and remove any incentives for sending jobs overseas.

Given the speed of movement in the technology industry, the political appointments at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Commerce Department of an Obama Administration will be critical

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T-minus 24 Hours… Mon, 03 Nov 2008 21:59:00 +0000 Vanessa Truskey

At this time tomorrow, Americans all across the country will be making their way to the polls (or laughing at those standing in the long lines if they are among the estimated 24.4 million who voted early), checking that oh-so-important box next to the name of the ticket they feel best qualified to lead our country for at least the next four years.

So you may ask, what is the feeling in D.C. today, around the H&K office where less than two blocks away, curtains will be measured, china chosen and portraits hung starting this January?

In two words: slightly chaotic.  Not sure if it’s the election or the fact that HBO is filming an upcoming Sarah Jessica Parker series on the street adjacent to our office, but there is a definite buzz around here – almost like the city is on a caffeine high.  Obama vs. McCain banter is higher than ever and everyone is chatting about their Election Night plans.

Outside things are just as other-worldly.  The popular breakfast/lunch spot across the street, Corner Bakery, has a sign posted that it will be open late tomorrow night – in case someone wants to make a run for baby bundt cakes and lattes while watching the returns? 

To top it all off, the Redskins are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Monday Night Football tonight.  And so comes into play the Redskins Rule: if the Redskins win their last home game before a presidential election, the incumbent party held on to the White House. If they lose, the challenging party took over.  This has been true since 1937.  I can just see the Terrible Towels flying now.

One thing is for sure: I can’t wait for tomorrow.  And if you do nothing else of importance this week – get out and vote tomorrow!

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